Beaufort West sits in the heart of the Karoo region of South Africa and is often neglected by travellers as they power through on the long journey from Johannesburg to Cape Town and the coast. This is a pity as the Karoo offers a lot and Beaufort West is a delightful little town steeped in history. It is nearly 950km south-west of Johannesburg and 460km north-east of Cape Town on the N1 highway, so ideally situated as a place to take a break.
Still standing proud are examples of late 19th century architecture, in particular the old town hall and mission church. There is quite a mix of architectural styles here; the Dutch Reform Church is Neo-Gothic, built in 1892 while the Anglican Church, built in 1850, is Romanesque. A number of houses varying from Victorian, Georgian, Edwardian to Cape Dutch and Neo-Classic can be seen on a historic walk. A map of this can be had at the tourist office. It's quite a small town, so easy to get around on foot.
Beaufort West's most famous former resident was Professor Christiaan Barnard, the heart transplant pioneer. His house is now part of the town museum.
Beaufort West is also gateway to the Karoo National Park. There are a number of tour operators that provide game drives, bird watching, hiking and biking trails and even helicopter safaris. The Karoo is also known throughout South Africa for its beautifully clear night skies.
If you want to head out on your own, the stark, bare Nieuveld Mountains that frame the town will please the energetic and there's a ridge just 15 minutes or so north-east of the town that gives a lovely view over it and the surrounding countryside.
Those opting to stay overnight here are spoilt for choice. For backpackers looking for hostels in Beaufort West, there is hostel accommodation. The north of town is the best place to look for budget options, as there are many bed and breakfasts, family guesthouses and hostel accommodation in this area on or around Donkin Street, the main thoroughfare. It's a great place to break that long 24 hour journey from Johannesburg to Cape Town and most bus companies making this run pass through and will drop here. The Shoprite supermarket's money market counter serves as the bus ticket office. Be careful though, different bus companies use different picking up and dropping off points.
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